Barrier Reef stays off UN ‘in danger’ list

The Great Barrier Reef will not be listed as a World Heritage site “in danger” after a UNESCO committee agreed to delay any decision until 2023.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee met both virtually and in the Chinese city of Fuzhou to vote on the draft decision on Friday night.

Federal politicians have lobbied against the proposal, fearing it would hurt the image of natural wonder which is one of the jewels of Australia’s domestic and international tourism sectors.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley flew to several countries and gained enough support to override the listing recommendation, with Australia and 18 other delegates of the 21 members on Friday speaking in favour of the amendments to reconsider in 2023.

The committee, which usually makes consensus decisions, accepted the position to delay without a vote.

Only Norway argued for the reef to be listed as “in danger”.

A monitoring mission will visit the reef to determine how the effects of climate change can be managed.

“This has never been about Australia hiding from the challenges facing the reef or the pressures of climate change, it has been about ensuring a fair and transparent process for the Reef and the people who work tirelessly to protect it,” Ms Ley said after the decision.

“Our concern was always that UNESCO had sought an immediate ‘In Danger Listing’ without appropriate consultation, without a site visit and without all the latest information, and it is clear that this process has concerned not only Australia but other nations as well”.

Ms Ley said Australia will continue to work with UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee, as well as the Queensland government, to protect the reef’s long-term future.

“The World Heritage Committee’s endorsement of Australia’s position will give reef managers, marine scientists and land managers the ability to demonstrate the success of the outstanding work that is taking place across the reef,” she said.

Ms Ley earlier told the virtual meeting on Friday that downgrading the reef’s status before the committee had finalised its own climate change policy made no sense.